The Seger File

An unofficial web site about the music of Bob Seger Last updated May 1999 Edited by Scott Sparling sparling@segerfile.com


The Fire Inside

October 1991

Data

Reached #7 on the Billboard Top 200 album chart

Seger wrote 38 songs and recorded 24 for the album. "I wanted to do it all with Was [producer Don Was] but we only had a window of time of about two and a half months." Susan Whitall, August 24, 1991, The Detroit News. "Long Way Home"

Seger: "I think it's a hopeful album." Susan Whitall, August 24, 1991, The Detroit News. "Long Way Home"

Other potential album titles included Sightseeing (Seger: "I didn't like it as a title for the album because it sounded like I'd been on a holiday") Long Way Home and Real at the Time.


The Cover

"It's not meant to be political or make any reference to the war in Iraq, though I supported that war. It's meant to be fire on fire. I looked through a lot of photos. When I saw this one, I said, 'That's cool. It's really fiery.'" Gary Graff, August 4, 1991, Detroit Free Press. "The Creative Fire Returns" [Cool and fiery.]

The cover photo is from a book by Jake Rajs and was a last minute decision. Earlier, Seger had planned to call the album 'Sightseeing.' An Yves Tanguy painting was slated for cover. Gary Graff, August 4, 1991, Detroit Free Press. "The Creative Fire Returns"

Capitol Records president Hale Milgrim had this comment on the final cover art: "It just didn't knock my socks off, but I know Bob feels it fits perfectly with the music." Gary Graff, August 4, 1991, Detroit Free Press. "The Creative Fire Returns"


Musicians/Sessions

Collaborators on the album include Waylan Jennings, Patti Smith, Joe Walsh and Bruce Hornsby.

Seger worked with producer Don Was: "I've been with so many producers that I will not let take the wheel. I'll let them take it for a while, then I'll say, 'Give it back over here.' But with Was, I could just sit back and enjoy him taking the wheel. He knew. He's very musical." Susan Whitall, August 24, 1991, The Detroit News. "Long Way Home"

Seger thought Was captured Bonnie Raitt better than anybody had before.

Don Was: "Bob isn't like some sheltered star; he's been out there living. He's had some trauma mixed in with the success. He's a frayed soul, and he's a real honest artist. It come out in his work." Susan Whitall, August 24, 1991, The Detroit News. "Long Way Home"

Was: "A few of the ballads were "so naked and so emotional that when he was done singing, no one could speak afterward. A few of those songs didn't make the final cut. But I won't let them die." Susan Whitall, August 24, 1991, The Detroit News. "Long Way Home"

One of those songs was "Chances Are," which was ultimately re-recorded for the soundtrack of the movie "Hope Floats" in 1998.


On How Long It Took

In 1988, Seger's mother became ill. That began a period when Seger went to see his mother in the hospital in Ann Arbor virtually every day for 13 months.

Was: "I made my last contribution to this record a year ago, and he continued to play with it for another year. I thought it was madness, that he was beating the stuff to death -- until I heard the album. Then I said, 'I got it.' That's the way he works. And he did improve the album." Gary Graff, August 4, 1991, Detroit Free Press. "The Creative Fire Returns"

Hornsby: "He does know what he wants. And I'm not saying that in a bad way. He's strong and he was a strong opinion, which is good." Gary Graff, August 4, 1991, Detroit Free Press. "The Creative Fire Returns"


Putting Out the Fire

This promotional "Fire Inside" fire extinquisher was used to promote the album. Several of the extinquishers surfaced on ebay.com in late 1998, selling for over $50. I didn't bid, but I did help myself to the graphic.


Tracks

Long Way Home

Seger: "'Long Way Home' seems to be getting a lot of mail. People are really touched by it. And that's why I do this, that's why we all do this...to make that emotional connection, that's worth everything." Interview on Later with Bob Costas.


Take A Chance

Seger: "In that song, the narrator is trying to convince someone to take a chance on him, and the person he's trying to convince is doing a lot of dodging for various reasons, they don't want to commit." Radio Interview, World Premier of The Fire Inside, with Redbeard

"Take A Chance" was inspired by Lou Reed's song, "Busload of Faith."

Seger: "Any relationship...is going to be work, and that's part of the song too. You take a chance when you finally say 'okay, I'm gonna try to make this work." Timothy White Sessions radio interview.


Real At The Time

Originally written at a slightly slower tempo and song in an ironic, Tom Petty mode. Things are either real or they aren't, Seger commented. They can't be "real at the time." The irony of the lyrics, however, is lost in the bigger production of the album track, which turned it into more of a rocker. Speaking of which, there's a very strange tame-lag in the vocal harmony tracks when you listen to this track with earphones.


The Real Love

The song charted at #24

Album-oriented rock radio stations did not like the choice of "The Real Love" as the first single off the album. They wanted a rocker. Punch: "They bitched for three weeks when I gave them 'Fire Lake.' But they always find the rocker on the album for us. If we release a rocker from the album, they wouldn't want it. It's better if AOR runs out and finds us a great rocker." Susan Whitall, August 24, 1991, The Detroit News. "Long Way Home"

This, the first single off the album, just "rolled over and died in three weeks," Andrews said later. "It's the first album since 'Live Bullet' to go platinum for us without a hit single." John Smyntek, July 30, 1995, Detroit Free Press. "New Seger album due out this fall."


The Fire Inside

The Fire Inside, the single, was nominated for a Grammy.

This track was written before all the others -- the song is from a different point in Seger's life than the other tracks, and so for him it has a different feel to it

"'The Fire Inside' came very late in the album. Punch kept saying "You gotta finish that song."

Seger started writing The Fire Inside in September 1989 and finished in May 1991.

"I had three verses. It was a very long song, it was a very difficult track to get because it's 6 minutes long and the band had to cook, kinda in a Muscle Shoals way, but I wanted it more rock and roll, I wanted more snap to it. But it's difficult to keep up that energy for six minutes. I mean to keep it steady and humming, because you're telling this very, very intricate story. That was a pistol, getting that track. I think we recorded it four different times, over a period of a year in four different cities..every time we'd do a session we'd record it." Radio Interview, World Premier of The Fire Inside, with Redbeard.


Recently, a collector I know shared with me a legal pad with some handwritten lyrics to "The Fire Inside." To his knowledge, the pad came from an acquaintance of Seger's, after it was left behind at a recording session. The handwritten pages were subsequently sold on eBay for a stunning amount. What's most interesting to me is the first verse, which is totally different from the recorded version:

He's a hard guy standin' on a one-way street
One hand on his buckle, one hand on his cigarette
He looks right at you and you feel the heat
He's the kind that you meet when your heart's not ready yet.
All dressed in denim and cowboy boots
With eyes so blue they shoot right through your heart of glass
Wild on the edges and lean and tough
You wanna say somethin' but you can't speak up
You wanna start playin' but the game looks rough
So you tell yourself that enough is enough
And you turn on your heel, you try to walk away
But you stop in the middle of your stride
You're all mixed up and you're all out of breath
And there's no way you can hide
The Fire Inside.
 


It once occurred to me that a real fire -- in a California apartment building -- also figures in Seger's story, which has led me to wonder about the line "the fire inside." What is "the fire inside?" Is it something good that keeps you going, even though you know it all ends in dust and disarray? Or is it something bad that sends you out on the town, makes you screw up, even when you've screwed up before and sworn you never would again? Or is it sex, as in the Fire Down Below?


Sightseeing

If I remember right, "Sightseeing," the single, reached about #33. At one point it was considered for the first single off the album -- but Capitol got conservative.

"Sightseeing" is Seger's favorite cut off the album. "If you turn off all the instruments and turn up the drums, you can actually sing the song Led Zeppelin's "Rock 'n' Roll" to it -- honest, it's the same tempo.

"I wanted to try a squeeze box thing, so we called in (Bruce) Hornsby. Then we added Lisa Germano over the top, a violin player who was more like fiddle on this -- it just got that strange feeling....and I loved it." Susan Whitall, August 24, 1991, The Detroit News. "Long Way Home"

Seger commented once that "Sightseeing" is unusual in that it is one of the few songs that draws its name from the bridge of the song, rather than from a verse or chorus.


Which Way

Seger: "It's kind of a Lighting Hopkins. I was just trying to do something real authentic, blues-wise. It's hard getting a good blues shuffle down, so this time I was determined to do one strong blues shuffle." The music was inspired by seeing Clapton with Stevie Ray Vaughan, the month before Vaughan died. Susan Whitall, August 24, 1991, The Detroit News. "Long Way Home"


Blind Love

Seger described this track as "obviously somewhat tongue-in-cheek." Susan Whitall, August 24, 1991, The Detroit News. "Long Way Home"

"I feel a kinship with Tom Waits; I love the way he writes, which makes it easy to do the songs." Gary Graff, August 4, 1991, Detroit Free Press. "The Creative Fire Returns"


Reviews

In a review headlined "Fire Inside shows Bob Seger has passed his days of glory," critic Tom Moon writes:

"...One of the titans of three-chord classic rock, Seger is an unimaginative nose-to-the-grindstone artist. His flashes of insight are beery, not brilliant, and his grip on tried-and-true forms has grown iron-fisted...the straight-over-the-plate rock of the ballad single "The Real Love," and likely follow-ups "The Fire Inside" and "Real at the Time," is all he knows...the strained sound of Seger's glory-days stories, down-and-out drinking songs and anthems test his already herniated vocal delivery." Tom Moon, October 4, 1991, Miami Herald. "Fire Inside shows Bob Seger has passed his days of glory."

Elsewhere on the page with Moon's story, Conway Twitty got a good review for his 1991 album, Even Now.

A silly, insulting year-end music wrap-up in USA Today panned both Seger and the album, including him and a few other older rockers under the heading "Geezers We Could Do Without." His picture was included with the caption: "The Fire's Out."


My Take

In order to "savor" this album, I never actually listened to it during the first year I owned it. Instead, I would put it on the CD player, hit the random mode and listen to whatever song it chose for me. Then I would play nothing but that same song for several weeks, at which point I would let the random mode choose another song to unveil. After about four months I'd heard about half the album. It was almost a full year before I heard the final song selected by the random mode: "Long Way Home."

This whole obsessive exercise was intended to ration out the precious material and extend the pleasure -- when you've been starved for Seger, why consume a new album in one sitting? The result, however, was somewhat the opposite. I fragmented the experience so much that I never really had a sense of the album as an album, until much later. In short, I overdid it. (Surprise.)


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